Orbex has announced that it is partnering with UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) to carry an experimental payload on its maiden flight from Scotland in 2021.
The first launch of the Orbex Prime rocket will represent a first for the UK space industry, showcasing the UK’s end to end satellite launch capability, combining a UK rocket, a UK satellite and a UK launch site. This follows the announcement in July 2018 of the proposed UK Vertical Launch spaceport in Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands. At that time, the UK Space Agency announced that Orbex had been chosen to launch orbital vehicles from the site as part of the main consortium.
Orbex has also confirmed that it will launch an upcoming satellite in SSTL’s line of demonstrators by 2023. “We are extremely excited about the development of a sovereign UK satellite launch capability,” commented Sarah Parker, Managing Director of SSTL. “This is something SSTL has been advocating for many years, and it will benefit the entire UK space industry. We have been impressed with the rapid progress Orbex has made in a short time, and we look forward to working with them towards the first launch in 2021 and beyond.”
The Orbex Prime vehicle is a completely re-thought and re-engineered rocket, designed to deliver small satellites into Earth’s orbit. Thanks to its novel architecture, Prime launchers are up to 30% lighter and 20% more efficient than any other vehicle in the small launcher category, packing more power per cubic litre than many heavy launchers. This is in part due to its unique choice of bio-propane as a fuel, a clean-burning, renewable fuel that cuts carbon emissions by 90% compared to old-fashioned hydrocarbon fuels. The Prime vehicle will launch satellites to altitudes up to 1,250 km (776 miles), inserting them into sun-synchronous or polar orbits.
“We are humbled by the trust that SSTL has shown in Orbex,” said Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex. “To have the world’s leading small satellite manufacturer supporting us at this stage of our development is not only a boost to Orbex, but for the UK space industry as a whole. SSTL has shown great leadership in the UK satellite industry for decades, and now they are leading the way again in this strong show of support for a UK-based launch provider.”
Orbex is a UK-based spaceflight company, with subsidiaries and production facilities in Denmark and Germany. Orbex staff members have professional backgrounds with NASA, ESA and several other commercial spaceflight organisations. The company is funded by two of Europe’s largest venture capital funds, Sunstone Technology Ventures and the High-Tech Gründerfonds, as well as strategic investor Elecnor Deimos Space, the UK Space Agency (UKSA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission Horizon 2020 program.